My pilgrimage to Rameshwaram

One of my absolute favourite places to visit in the whole of India is the Ramanathaswamy temple in Rameshwaram, Tamil Nadu. The vibrant town of Rameshwaram is an example of India’s rich heritage, not only in terms of history, but also in terms of spirituality and architecture. The temple is on Pamban island, connected to the Tamil Nadu mainland by the famous Pamban bridge, which is a little over 2 km long.



This narrow waterway is what separates India from Sri Lanka and there are times when the Sri Lankan coast can be seen from a specific point on Pamban island. According to Hindu legend, there was a stone bridge built by Lord Rama, connecting Rameshwaram and Sri Lanka.

Rameshwaram is famous for being one of the holiest sites in Hinduism and has at times been referred to as the Varanasi of southern India because of its spiritual importance. The Ramanathaswamy temple can only be described as spectacular. It is spread over 15 acres and is home to the longest temple corridor in the world, with 1212 symmetrical pillars in the outer corridor. The layout of the temple bears witness to the intricate Dravidian style. The first corridor houses the main deity and dates to the 12th century. Granite is not available locally in Rameshwaram and must have been brought in from elsewhere in Tamil Nadu. The carvings and paintings on the pillars are breathtaking and it would not have been difficult for me to spend a full day admiring them. The incredible thing is that if you look at the pillars from one end to another, they all converge to form a single dot. Furthermore, each pillar tells a story, through intricate carvings of deities, animals, and scenes from Hindu epics.

One of the most significant features of the Ramanathaswamy temple is the fact that it houses 22 Theerthams, or sacred water wells. According to legend, the wells were crafted using Lord Rama’s arrows. Lord Rama then requested water from different pilgrimage sites and poured them into the wells, turning them into sacred Theerthams.

Prior to visiting the temple, devotees take a full bath, including washing the hair, to show up in their purest/cleanest form. The water from each Theertham is said have distinct healing properties and to purify the soul in a specific way, accentuating the connection between the mind, body, and spirit with each Theertham having different cleansing properties. Indeed, the water from each Theertham has a different temperature and salinity level, even though they are all very close to each other. A significant part of the rituals when visiting the temple is to have a bucket of holy water from each well poured over one’s head. This act of purification is significant as it indicates that the devotee is preparing to approach the divine presence in the temple.

I can attest to the power of the purification ritual. I have been there twice during the past six months and the experience was the same both times. No matter how tired, weighed down or stressed I may be prior to visiting Rameshwaram, as soon as I enter the sacred space, feelings of peace and serenity settle within me. The feelings of exhaustion and stress begin to lift as soon as the water from the first Theertham touches my head. Whatever load I may be carrying lifts incrementally with each Theertham that I visit and have the water poured over me. I always leave Ramanathaswamy temple feeling light and joyful.  


My mind clears, I start to think clearly again, my brain fog lifts, and I feel that I can face the world again. I ensure that the people closest to me are present in my heart and mind when undergoing the rituals so that they also benefit from my visit, and indeed, some of them have told me that they do feel it. The effect is so profound that my friend and I are making plans to return next month, even though we were there a week ago. The vibration that we feel when people chant “Om Namah Shivaya” makes me feel that I have a connection to this place from a past life and we learn more with each visit.



The streets upon which we walk barefoot on the way to the temple are burning hot, but the experience makes it worthwhile and after a few minutes we hardly feel the heat. As soon as we leave there, we start to talk about our next visit, and we always look forward to that.


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